The Duke of Cambridge has revealed that seeing people die whilst working as an air ambulance pilot made him see the world as a “slightly depressed, darker, blacker place”.
Prince William – who worked for the East Anglian Air Ambulance from 2015 until 2017 – admitted he “really worries” about those working on the frontline during the coronavirus pandemic and the effect “such high levels of sadness, trauma, and death” will have.
Recalling his own experiences in a video call with medics, counsellors and first responders, Prince William said: “When you see so much death and so much bereavement it does impact how you see the world.”
He added: “It stays with you, at home it stays with you for weeks on end, doesn’t it, and you see the world in a much more, slightly depressed, darker, blacker place.”
In 2018, the Duke revealed that one particular incident involving a child “took him over the edge” while working with the air ambulance.
Speaking at the inaugural This Can Happen conference in London, Prince William – who is father to Prince George, seven, Princess Charlotte, five, and Prince Louis, two – said: “I worked several times on very traumatic jobs involving children, and after I had my own children I think the relation between the job and the personal life was what really took me over the edge.
“I started feeling things that I have never felt before, and I got very sad and very down about this particular family.”
The Duke – who was joined by the Duchess of Cambridge on the recent video call – went on to discuss his concerns over the mental health of frontline staff.
“What really worries me about the frontline staff at the moment, is that you are so under the cosh and so pressurised,” he said.
“You’re so drawn into it, which everyone is, it is only natural that would happen. But that’s what I think a lot of the public don’t understand, that when you’re surrounded by that level of intense trauma and sadness and bereavement… it stays with you.”
Both the Duke and Duchess stressed that it was vital for frontline personnel to reach out for support and that the stigma surrounding seeking help for mental health issues must end.
Prince William added: “I think people need to understand how you are normal human beings doing a brilliant job in a very, very difficult time.
“I fear, like you said, you’re all so busy caring for everyone else that you won’t take enough time to care for yourselves, and we won’t see the impacts for quite some time.”
Anyone can talk to Samaritans for free on 116 123 or visit samaritans.org for online self-help tools and information.
You can also contact Samaritans by emailing [email protected]